Estimated Read Time: 18 Minutes
Sales, production, management, and customer service – those 4 are some of the most important factors of a company.
We all know that these can grow or destroy a company. But did you notice an underlying factor? Your people – your people define your company. They are your lifeblood – they interact with your customers, they set the pace of how efficient and profitable you are, they are your brand ambassadors, they define your quality and overall product, and so much more – your employees are your company.
Your New Hires Are Not Ready
Your employees might be your company, but that does not mean that they will instantly understand everything about you. Yes, they do research and have a few interviews and conversations; however, that does not make them an expert or ready to dive into work – yet.
You can’t just throw a newbie into the company thinking they’ll understand everything immediately. Even the most experienced professionals require something. It’s easier if someone has been at the company for 10+ years to slide over into a similar position. They know what the tone is, they understand the company policies and the job requirements, they have a firm grasp of previous projects and current materials, and they even help define the company culture. Great!
But the new employees don’t, that’s why onboarding and training are so vital.
Your salespeople are the face of your company, as well as are the income drivers. They are your front-line customer service people, project managers, translators to your other staff, and they sell your products/services.
Experienced salespeople are an asset. However, as you grow, you have to hire more salespeople, which leads to a lot of training, seeing if they’re the right fit, sales mentoring, and so much more. All the while, it’s costing you money to ramp them up to be halfway as good as your experienced professionals.
If only you could hook people up and download all the experience and information into people’s brains, right? But this is not the Matrix.
You have to take months and frequent touch-points to get your new salespeople up to par. We understand.
It takes time, but it’s also not an exact science. Every employee is different, from their experience, personality, skill sets, and to even job requirements, so what do you do? You don’t “wing it” and assume it will work because it worked for Angela in Marketing. No, your salespeople are too important to risk improperly training and onboarding your people.
You don’t want to scare them off (and have to start the expensive process of filling that position again), you don’t want to under-train them (and then have an under-performer, or worse, someone that doesn’t properly represent your company – that can be extremely damaging), and you don't want to micromanage them to the point that they don’t know how to do their job or succeed without your help (that will end up being a time and effort-suck for a manager). All of these are different scenarios if your salespeople are not properly onboarded and trained.
That’s why we put together a few tips when onboarding and training your new salespeople.
Onboarding and Training New Salespeople
Onboarding starts as soon as your new salesperson signs their contract, if not before. Even the phone conversations and emails with them telling them what to bring on their first day sets the tone.
Then there’s when they walk through the door. Everyone knows paperwork is a boring necessity, but the actual interactions, summarizing the company and culture, and introducing them to the staff – all of those you can control.
Onboarding videos, gifts, packages, and learning modules are increasing in popularity because they work; the more of a consistent program you can create, the better. Yes, every individual is different, everyone learns and remembers differently; however, you can always have a basic package together and then adjust as you work with your new team member. They will appreciate the structure but individual attention that you will provide.
It’s always good to make them feel included on day one and help them feeling welcomed and “on track.” No one wants to walk in to a fire or the “sink or swim” method – it makes the company seem outdated, disorganized, and, overall, sends red flags to your new hire.
Remember, they’re taking a risk on you just as much as you’re taking a risk on them. During the interview process, they were sizing you up too to see if you’re worth coming to work for. So, if you want your company to grow and thrive in the hands of your new employees, then you need to treat them like seeds that you will feed, water, and care for.
Hence, when your new employee steps through the door....
- Have a welcome and training package ready.
- Be welcoming.
- Show your company culture and personality.
- Have a plan in place.
Think about it, do you have their computer and email ready? Do they already have a name plate for the door? Do you have your agenda for the first few days/weeks ready? Is their paperwork ready to be filled out? All of these make an impact and impression. Start their onboarding right; you don’t want to be another statistic of disappointment.
Don’t have an onboarding program? We wrote a blog to help with that. If you want to learn more about onboarding – here are a few resources:
- Salesperson Onboarding Checklist for Startups/Small Businesses
- Onboarding New Salespeople
- 8 Best Practices for Onboarding New Sales Hires
Training for the job is the most obvious but also the most vital. If your new salesperson can’t do their job, how long will the new employee be considered an employee?
First, you have to give your salespeople context around their new roles, as well as what they will learn in training. Explain to them the steps and expectations, from the job shadowing an experienced sales rep and customer service call observations to a factory tour and product installations – all are important aspects.
Next is the product or service training - your sales reps need to know what they are selling. It’s doesn’t matter if they are promotional product items, software, plumbing supplies, or pharmaceuticals, it’s vital to train your people how to discuss, administer, use, and understand the value that the products/service provides. Do you have a system or plan in place for this?
After understanding what they will be selling comes the sales training. This is the sales methodology, how your company approaches selling. Do you have a script? Do you mostly sell through online, over the phone, or in-person? Are you more a consultative and agency-style? Do you believe in inbound marketing? Or are you more of a foot-on-pavement, “knocking on doors,” and cold calling type of company?
There are different sales and training styles. However, here are few tips and ideas, which can work for almost any type of methodology. These are not in a specific order due to training and priorities differing from company to company.
- Systems Training – Do you use a CRM? What about an IM communication tool like Slack? You must take the time to teach your people how to use your systems. For the CRM, include a hands-on and project-based training to teach how to enter contacts, projects, set reminders, the email or phone call features, and so on.
- Technology Training – This is a bit different from your CRM and other systems. I’m talking about your phone system, video conferencing technology, and other tech resources. Teach your sales rep how to troubleshoot basic and common issues, from if the video tool is on the frizz to if they need to ask prospects to mute their microphones if there is an echo. If your salesperson is supposed to be active on social, go over those guidelines, expectations, and training.
- Target Audience – Who are the buyer personas? Who is the target audience for your products/services? Describe the ideal customer – are you a B2B or B2C company? Do your sales reps understand what a “good fit” looks like? Do your salespeople know who the contacts should be in a company or organization’s hierarchy? Describe the target audience. Describe the end-user and consumers. Your salespeople need to have a foundation on how to communicate with decision makers and how your company/organization accesses, communicates, and works with the target audience.
- Prospecting – How does your company prospect? Share what the channels are, where the waterholes are for the target audience, what are the most common touchpoints, and overall best practices?
- Sales Process and Expectations – What is the typical sales process for your company? Be sure to cover the main stages of the typical steps that a prospect has to become a customer. Be sure to establish benchmarks, such as closing rates, percentage of emails that convert to calls, and percentage calls convert into in-person meetings. Also be sure to talk about priorities and where efforts are best placed, as well as what numbers they will be held to. Remember that they will be slow at first, so discuss the different levels they will be expected to do and the timeline – keep it realistic.
- Competition – Every company has competition. We all know that your salespeople will have to deal with comparisons and your competition’s salespeople. Provide an overview of your main competitors; then, share a competitive analysis that highlights exactly what makes you different. If you have a competitor’s product for the salesperson to try out, allow them to use it for a while. Also, it is vital that you be honest where your product/service falls short to your competition and where it outperforms in the market. Be honest about all of the pros and cons between your product/service and your competition.
- Sales Team – Another great asset is your sales team. Have your new salesperson spend some time with some (if not all) of your salespeople, the more variety the better. This way, the newbie can get to know the different personalities, sales styles, and other aspects of each person. However, the main reason is to learn. Have the rep talk with sales reps that haven’t been there long, as well as the most experienced, this way the new salesperson can get their thoughts on the products, personas, end-users, and sales. They might even have useful tips or unique solutions to a common problem you might not have thought to mention or have established in your training program yet.
- Demo Training – Be sure to include role play, as well as one-on-one and in groups. Also, sit down with your new rep, have good and bad examples to review and discuss, including phone calls, different steps of the sales process, demos, farewell conversations, and closing conversations. You must have your new reps learn how to respond to objections. Some companies like providing scripts or bullet points to learn/memorize when addressing objections.
- Negotiation – Not every company has a negotiating phase, but every sales rep (new or experienced) needs to know how your company approaches the negotiation phase. Does your company allow for discounts, if so what are the parameters? Does your company allow for add-on’s to be included at a reduced rate, if so what are the set prices for that? Clearly define what judgement calls your sales reps can make and what the etiquette is for discussing these topics.
- Onboarding Clients –Will your salespeople have to onboard the new clients? Will your reps be handing off their clients to a specific team that will now handle their needs? Share the responsibilities and the best practices that accompany onboarding clients. If there’s a hand-off, make both parties clearly understand the process and expectations. Maybe try a practice hand-off, but at the very least show the right way to hand-off a client/project. If there are others involved throughout the onboarding process, be sure to have everyone involved aware of the process, expectations, and routine.
- Ongoing Client Service – Once the salesperson closes the sale, are they in charge of that program/client? If there is no off-boarding to another team or team member, but an introduction of other team members to assist with the workload, will the salesperson be in charge? If that is the case, there will need to be additional training, policies, and planning in place.
- Vertical, Role, or Territory-Specific Training – In addition to training for the job, your salespeople need to understand their role and other aspects of the company and job. Your new hire might need other relevant supplemental training for role-specific duties. This could include specific verticals or a deeper understanding of the territory that they’ll be taking over.
- Leadership Training – All new hires should go through the basic sales training to understand the goals, values, branding, products, and customers that your sales team prioritizes. However, if the new hire is going into a management or executive position, further planning and training will be required.
- Mentorship – This could mean a mentor in the same department or a different one. However, mentor programs are increasing in popularity due to their various benefits, including employee growth, providing a deeper understanding of the company, and employee retention. So, when onboarding your new employee, consider having them fill out a profile, then match them up with a mentor that can help guide them.
- Engage – There are plenty of stats talking about the importance of employee engagement. So, be sure to introduce your new employee to the different programs, engagement opportunities, committees, and key people. You don’t need to do this all in the beginning, but it’s good to get your people involved, engaged, understanding the company’s culture and values, as well as feeling like part of the team.
- Certifications – At the end of the sales training, consider a certification exam. This can help boost their confidence, ensure a consistent level of knowledge, and a gauge to see if the rep is ready to represent your company in front of clients. Have your salespeople role play through all the different steps of your company’s sales process – prospecting, connecting with a prospect, the exploratory call, a demo, negotiation, closing meeting or call, and hand off. At the end of it all, it’s a good idea to give a certification award, trophy, or commemorative to instill confidence and as proof of their hard work. Learn more about the importance of certification awards here and get award ideas for a certification program here.
3. Instill Confidence
Why is instilling confidence important? If you read this article by PPAI, you would understand that a poor or bad training experience can hurt even the most experienced, accomplished, and outstanding sales people. So, be sure to be honest, but reasonable.
Bonus Tip: When training, most trainees prefer positive feedback first, and then move into areas of improvement. Be sure to be honest, but respectful. If you can foster that throughout your sales team and all of their training, then you’ll have a more positive team that embraces constructive criticism rather than being scared or resentful of it.
4. Praise and Recognize
Google “the importance of employee recognition” sometime. You’ll get back countless results from respected sources including scholarly articles.
Here are a few:
- Why Employee Recognition Is So Important – And What You Can Do About It
- Why Giving Recognition Is Necessary
- Why Employee Recognition Is Even More Important Than You Think
- Show Your Employees Some Love
- 3 Reasons Why Employee Recognition Will Always Matter
- Aligning Company Culture With Your Brand
- Personal & Professional Gift Ideas to Celebrate Accomplishments
- Recognition: A Powerful, But Often Overlooked, Leadership Tool to Improve Employee Performance
- An Analysis of Employee Recognition: Perspectives on Human Resources Practices
- Cause and Effect: The Positives and Negatives of Employee Recognition
- 17 Employee Recognition Stats You'll Love
- Why Giving Recognition Is Necessary
- Trend Alert: Performance-Based Recognition
This is just the beginning of a long list of articles and images. Employees need praise and recognition, especially when they are new and unsure of the new position, working with new people, and the overall work. Every company and person is different, but regular feedback and recognition for good/hard work increases engagement and employee retention, in addition to instilling confidence and creating a more positive employee-centric corporate culture.
Furthermore, think about how you feel when you’re recognized for your good work – you feel good, energized, valued, and proud, don’t you? That’s how your salespeople will feel, too.
Not sure if your company reflects the culture you want? Or, even worse, are your branding and corporate culture not aligning? Read this blog for tips and insights.
Support is critical for the training point of your salespeople. This means before, during, and even after the initial training. It takes months to get a salesperson ready to be on their own, depending on your training, products, and their experience.
Be sure to have a system in place, whether that’s follow up training or the sales manager going out with them on the more complex calls. Make it clear to the new rep that when they have issues, they can go to their manager or the appropriate department for assistance, whether it’s an IT problem, all the way to the manager about a difficult customer.
Also, provide the right equipment and resources for them to their job. A CRM, laptop, a cell phone, business cards, regular communication with the marketing team, the latest information about unique projects and clients, and even required certifications, all have a direct impact on their success.
Finally, do you have a starting sales system in place? Are you going to feed your new salesperson a few leads in the beginning to help get their confidence and comfort levels up? Are you giving them a list of companies, but not the points of contact? Or are you not giving your new rep anything to start and just set them loose on the world in the dark? How you have them first start selling can impact their confidence, experience, and overall impression of your company.
As mentioned before, the “sink or swim” method is still popular for outdated and small companies, but only because they feel that don’t have the resources to properly train and support staff. This is no longer acceptable in the modern world of HR, training, and corporate culture. So, be sure to have more of a plan, training program, and support system in place, from when your rep first enters the sales force all the way to in a few months you find that they’re struggling (or exceeding expectations).
No matter the results, you also need to have a system in place for further education and training in the future, as well as recognition for when they are doing well.
Your salespeople are the face of your company, are the drivers of growth, client managers, and are your front-line customer service personnel. If you want your company to succeed, you have to onboard, train, and develop your salespeople right from the beginning. How do you do that? Have a consistent program and plan in place for the various stages. Hopefully, these tips and ideas helped you get started on one that you can use to develop and tinker to your needs.
Good luck and happy selling!
Kristina (Mobley) Hublar is your friendly neighborhood Marketing Specialist at Bruce Fox, Inc., which means she is the person behind the keyboard for the social media, emails, website, and other marketing efforts. She’s new(ish) to Bruce Fox, but is an Indiana native. In her spare time, you’ll find her plotting her next road trip, bobbing along to music while crafting, spending time with loved ones, or with her nose in a book.